In today’s modern society, ensuring that applications are accessible is crucial. Although it can be a challenging and time-consuming task, Works recognises its utmost importance and believes that every software development team should strive to make their products more accessible. Each aspect of accessibility must be considered to guarantee a certain level of inclusion, making it an issue that should be given much attention.
The University of Washington conducted a study that revealed a concerning fact – app designers tend to overlook the needs of individuals with vision impairments when creating applications. This makes it incredibly challenging for those individuals to carry out even the simplest of tasks, such as selecting options. It is crucial that developers consider accessibility as a fundamental aspect of application development to address this problem.
To make sure that individuals with visual impairments can use applications with ease, it is imperative to take the necessary steps. By exploring methods that can be implemented to achieve this objective, Works believes that developers can make significant progress in creating more accessible applications.
What Are the Most Common Obstacles Faced by Users who have Visual Impairments?
1. Designing the User Interface
An application’s user interface often determines the first impression of users. Unfortunately, most UI elements are designed for users with 20/20 vision, making it difficult for individuals with visual impairments to use the application easily. Some software includes accessibility features, such as the ability to read aloud selected text and customized vibration patterns in response to user input. However, only a small percentage of apps can fully accommodate those with visual impairments.
2. Links and Buttons
Buttons and links are crucial in making an application user-friendly. Therefore, it is crucial for apps to provide appropriate adaptations for individuals with visual impairments, to create a practical user experience for all users.
3. Putting it into Practice
Even with accessibility features, such as voice input, individuals with visual impairments may still face challenges when using an application. When the source code lacks specific tags such as captions, headers, and alt-texts, the application may not deliver any audible responses. Furthermore, without the availability of alt-text, the user may not understand why the information has stopped being read aloud.
4. Complying with Standards
A lot of applications lack essential usability features. Although most users can manage to navigate these programs, those with visual impairments may find it challenging due to inconsistencies in navigation. Individuals with low vision require clear menu structures and consistent navigation methods. When these are not placed in a predictable manner, users may encounter difficulty navigating between pages, using functions, or returning to previous pages.
During the application design process, it is essential for developers to consider multiple factors, such as the fact that a significant number of individuals with visual impairments may have lower literacy levels.
Is There a Guide to Designing an Accessible Application?
The World Health Organization has recently reported that a significant 2.2 billion people worldwide are experiencing some degree of vision impairment. As life expectancy rises, this number is expected to increase in the future, highlighting the need for software developers to prioritize the accessibility of their applications. It is crucial for developers to take action to improve their services in order to meet the rising demand for accessible applications.
What could be the possible reasons behind such a practice? Allow me to offer some suggestions.
1. Aids for Keyboard Navigation
Screen readers offer visually impaired individuals the means to access information on a computer screen by providing auditory output, which can then be interfaced with a refreshable Braille display. This technology empowers users to consume digital content and interact with digital applications without the need for direct screen interaction.
Incorporating screen reader support into the app development process is the most direct method to ensure app accessibility. This method significantly expands the reach of any program. In fact, many companies are now prioritizing screen-reader support in their software development. For instance, the Uber app is accessible to people with visual impairments due to its compatibility with major screen reading programs, such as Apple’s VoiceOver and Android’s TalkBack. Furthermore, screen reader users can use Netflix to navigate and consume digital content.
2. Screen-independent Input Methods
Incorporating accessible input techniques for the screen, such as alternative keyboards, joysticks, and “sip and puff” devices, can improve the inclusivity of your program for individuals with impairments. This equipment enables them to use your software, as well as facilitating app navigation and discovery.
3. Descriptive Button Labels
Ensuring that links and buttons are clear and easily identifiable and used for those with visual impairments is crucial. Providing labels for commonly used buttons can significantly enhance their accessibility for individuals with disabilities.
It is crucial to not only have buttons present but also to make loading windows accessible and easy to navigate. Users with visual impairments may not be able to discern if an operation is taking longer than usual or if the software has stopped responding without visual feedback. Adding a label to the loading screen will enable screen readers to provide audio feedback to the user, informing them that an action is still in progress.
Alternative text for photographs can be provided to identify images for individuals with visual impairments by a screen reader. Some social media platforms like Facebook are increasingly implementing artificial intelligence technology to describe these photographs.
4. Audio Alerts
To inform users of any screen changes, it is advisable to include audible cues in apps. It is recommended that these sounds be stereo to ensure that they are audible in both ears. Examples of when these sounds could be triggered include when a page is refreshed, an image is changed, or an error occurs.
Text-to-audio software can greatly benefit individuals with visual impairments as it enables them to operate programs without depending on other assistive technologies. Accessible programs should include text-to-speech software that can respond to voice commands for simple operations and provide spoken feedback, recommended for visually impaired individuals.
5. Material Layout Reorganization
Individuals who rely on screen readers or text-to-voice tools for accessibility, long passages of text can be challenging to follow. To enhance comprehension and readability, it is advisable to maintain an average paragraph length of 150 to 200 words. Simultaneously, a pause may be used to inform the user when a new paragraph begins.
Titles are crucial for paragraphs to offer readers clarity and direction, allowing them to follow the topic’s progression. Furthermore, they serve as a valuable reference point for indexing and searching.
Accessibility for All
The implementation of accessibility features by businesses is increasingly prevalent. Netflix’s audio-assist subtitles are improving viewing experiences for all users, while Twitter’s automatic alt-text captions are offering contextual information for posted images. While mobile applications still have a long way to go in terms of accessibility, many organizations worldwide are working towards reducing barriers and promoting this cause.
The accessibility issues significantly limit the global reach of mobile applications, and hence it is imperative for software developers to guarantee that their programs are accessible to all users. The iOS and Android SDKs offer accessibility features that can be utilized to accomplish this.
The development of accessible apps requires taking into account the user experience from the perspective of someone with visual impairments. By doing so, we can significantly improve the lives of individuals with disabilities around the world.